Social media provides B2B companies with a powerful channel to communicate with their audiences. But social media marketing is about more than simply leveraging the reach of social channels—you need the right approach with your strategy, content and overall execution.

Social media can be a powerful tool to help increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, generate leads and establish an ongoing online dialogue with prospects and customers. But failing to put the right strategy and approach in place will not only hinder your success, but could also have a negative impact on your brand reputation as well.  Here are a few thoughts to consider.

Be aware of the differences between B2B and B2C

B2B marketing is traditionally a very different approach than B2C marketing, as many additional and unique factors come into play in the buying/selling process. For example, B2C marketing is typically focused on demographics and purchase habits. However, in B2B marketing, the purchasing cycles are typically much more complex and purchases tend to involve multiple decision makers and influencers, rather than a single person.

So what works for a consumer brand on social media, is rarely going to work for a B2B brand—especially those that tend to be less transactional, with long sales cycles and complex products or services. But one pitfall some B2B companies fall into is trying to emulate a B2C strategy and ignoring the inherent differences in approach and audience. Yes, social media is social, but your audience is the same as it would be for any other communication channel. Therefore, it’s best to approach your social media efforts with this in mind.

Choose the right channels

In the 2017 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks report, 71% of B2B marketers rated LinkedIn as important to their content marketing success, while only 38% felt the same about Facebook (and only 16% felt Google+ was important). Even though Facebook might seem like a powerhouse for online marketing, keep in mind that every platform has a different function and audience. So it’s important that the platforms you choose to use are based on your audience’s use and your goals for the channel.

There are a plethora of social media channels available and some marketers are tempted to jump on board as many as they can with the idea that it will help amplify their reach. But not every platform is suitable for every company and some may prove to be more of a liability than an asset. The nature of your business and audience will determine your social media strategy and ultimately help you set goals and choose the channels best suited to help you these goals.

Say and share what matters to your audience

When it comes to posting content on social media, what you say and share is paramount. Your social media content should not be aimed primarily at promoting your business or services. Social media (and content marketing in general) is not about selling—it’s about sharing. So make sure what you are posting will be relevant, valuable and helpful information for your target audience.

Also, keep in mind that each channel has its nuances and your content should be tailored accordingly.  For example, a photo of your employees dressed up for Halloween is much better suited for a Facebook or Instagram posting, as opposed to a company update on LinkedIn. Facebook as a general rule for B2B companies is a place to show the culture of the firm and humanize the brand, whereas LinkedIn has much more of a business culture and there is a general expectation of professionalism that should be followed.

Get the right people involved

Lastly, it’s very important to have the right people with the right skills at the table for both your social media marketing strategy and execution. Often, it’s assumed that younger employees have adequate skills based solely on their age and comfort level with social media. But in fact, it’s less about the age of an employee and more about their understanding of social media marketing as it relates to B2B companies.

So don’t make the mistake of handing off your brand’s online image to anyone, young or old, without giving the proper strategy, goals and direction to ensure success and avoid mishaps. If you don’t have the right skills in-house, consider hiring an agency.

Don’t jump in without a plan!

At the end of the day, the power of B2B social media marketing is not to be taken lightly. Don’t make the mistake of simply jumping into social media without a plan! B2B companies should make sure they have the right strategy and approach in place in order to make the most of their efforts.